DeVonta Smith is a new member of the Philadelphia Eagles. After a busy offseason in the City of Brotherly Love that included sending Carson Wentz to Indianapolis, there is finally some good news. The Eagles landed the Alabama product with the 10th overall pick when they traded up with the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith entered the draft as one of the smallest wide receiver prospects in recent memory. Despite his size at 166 pounds, Smith is extremely dynamic. He will not get hurt if defenders cannot hit him square and that is what the Eagles are banking on.
Defenders certainly were unable to do so in college. For the Crimson Tide in 2020, Smith finished with 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. That was good enough to land him the Heisman Trophy and a top-10 selection in the draft.
The New York Giants were sitting there at No. 11, which was one pick before the Eagles. Philly knew that Smith would not be there when they were on the clock, so they decided to jump their division rival and trade with another. The Eagles’ receiving corps is still not strong. Smith will lead a charge that includes Greg Ward Jr. and Jalen Reagor.
The excitement of Smith cannot be downplayed. He will reunite with Jalen Hurts and hopefully give the Eagles some sort of consistency on the outside.
Smith was the third receiver taken in the draft and has a chance to be the best of the bunch. Here are three early predictions for the rookie receiver in his first year in the league.
First Eagles’ Receiver To Reach 1,000 Yards
The Eagles have had some incredible stats. If you remember back in 2019, Wentz became the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in the history of the franchise. That is amazing. Next on the list, the Eagles have never had a rookie receiver eclipse 1,000 yards.
DeSean Jackson leads all Eagles’ rookies with 912 yards in 2008 while Jordan Matthews is right behind him with 872 in 2014. It is more than possible for DeVonta Smith to break this record. Of all Alabama receivers, only Amari Cooper eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark during his rookie campaign. That was in 2015 when he totaled 1,070 yards for the Oakland Raiders. This seems like a fair number to expect from Smith, especially when thinking about how much he will be used in his first season.
Smith was the most dynamic player in college football last season. Whether you are a believer or not, bulk work speaks for itself and the Eagles are going to put the ball in his hands whenever they can.
Smith did not run the ball much in college and had just four carries a year ago. It is unlikely that he is used much in that role at the next level, but Philadelphia will be able to put him in favorable positions. Alabama found many ways to get Smith a running start on the outside and that is where he was able to reach that next level and get to the end zone.
Speed always transfers well and Smith has a ton of it. He is one of the quickest players with the ball in his hands and has a chance to be the most exciting player in Philly since Jackson. Smith is a deep-ball threat that can run past defenders in the secondary. That could turn him into a touchdown machine in the NFL.
In the red zone, Smith is clearly not a jump-ball receiver, but he has the quickness to make one cut and get open in the end zone. Again, with the amount that Philadelphia is going to use him, it is not crazy to expect double-digit scores in his first year.
For a rookie receiver, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns puts you in some elite company. That is what the Eagles will be looking for from Smith. If they can ever figure out their quarterback situation, the offense can lean on Smith.
Dark-Horse Rookie of the Year Candidate
Depending on who you talk to, you will hear that Minnesota Vikings’ receiver Justin Jefferson was snubbed for the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. He finished with 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. The award was given to Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers. Herbert had a fine year, but he had a clear edge being a quarterback.
That is something that separates players. Quarterbacks are heavily favored in awards races at all levels now. DeVonta Smith beat the odds in college when he became the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991 and broke a string of four straight quarterback winners and nine of the last 10. Smith will be fighting against quarterbacks once again as the top three picks in the draft were at the position.
Trevor Lawrence was the first overall pick and will be one of the favorites to win the award. Zach Wilson was taken second, but can we believe in the Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Jets? Trey Lance seems like he has a better chance if he is given enough time on the field. The San Francisco 49ers could go with Jimmy Garoppolo for another year and let Lance sit. At the end of the day, Smith could be battling other wide receivers. Both Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle were taken before Smith and will also be the focal points of their current offensive schemes.
It would be surprising to see DeVonta Smith not be in the conversation at the end of the year. That is not to say that he wins the award, but he will certainly be a dark-horse candidate that could surprise some.